Montessori Philosophy & Practice
AGE 1-3 YEARS—Toys
The following is the text from this section of the 2009-2010 edition of The Joyful Child, Montessori from Birth to Three
AGE 1-3 YEARS - TOYS
Imagination is a wonderful tool of humans, but it cannot
be created out of nothing. Creative imagination is based on, and directly
related to, the quality of sensorial experiences in the real world. A
rich imagination enables one to picture a solution (solving a puzzle for
example) and to work toward it. The more experience a child has with real
purposeful activity and solving problems, the more useful, creative, and
effective her imagination will become.
We have selected, or created, manipulative toys that have
a wide variety of challenges. For most of them there is a beginning and
an end, and the completion of the activity is inherent in the material.
For example then the child has put all of the discs in the box with discs,
she has successfully complete a cycle of activity, feels a great deal
of satisfaction, and is often ready to repeat the activity.
Eye-hand coordination is developed when it is obvious
that a toy goes together in a particular way, for example a cube in a
square hole and a sphere in a round hole. It is no small thing for a child
to learn to direct her muscles to do what her eyes see should be done.
And the challenge of such activities helps the child develop coordination
and concentration. All of this must be considered when selecting toys
for the child at this developmental stage.
The use of wood instead of plastic helps the child appreciate
the natural world, the colors, shades and grains of wood, and the varying
weight of wooden toys in a variety of sizes and densities. Quality shows
a respect for the child and teaches the child respect for belongings.
Beauty and durability are important at all ages for the child's tastes
are being formed at this time of life. A beautiful home or a beautiful
world can only be created by those who have learned to appreciate living
Organizing and Rotating Toys
If you watch a child you will see which toys he plays
with most and which ones just get dropped and forgotten. Try to keep only
as many toys available to the child as can be kept neat, and uncrowded,
in baskets on a shelf.
Learning to Put Toys Away
Of course it is much easier to get into the habit of putting
a toy away when it is obvious where it goes on the shelf, when every toy
has a place where it belongs. It is more difficult when all of the toys
are being played with at once, and all the shelves empty, so it helps
to get into the habit of putting a toy away before getting out anotheragain,
the adult does this and is eventually imitated by the child. The parent
can make a game of "putting away" instead of thinking of it
as a distasteful chore.
Respecting Work and Concentration
The first essential for the childs development
is concentration. It lays the whole basis for his character and social
behavior. Praise, help, or even a look, may be enough to interrupt him,
or destroy the activity. It seems a strange thing to say, but this can
happen even if the child merely becomes aware of being watched. After
all, we too sometimes feel unable to go on working if someone comes to
see what we are doing.
The teachers [and parents'] skill in not interfering
comes with practice, like everything else, but it never comes very easily.
What advice can we give to mothers? Their children need to work at an
interesting occupation: they should not be helped unnecessarily, nor interrupted,
once they have begun to do something intelligent.
© Susan Mayclin Stephenson, 2010 (www.susanart.net)